Fujifilm today launched the X-M1, which is an interchangeable lens camera aimed mainly at the mainstream market. The camera features a design that borrows heavily from classic film camera bodies, and it has a light weight that allows it to be carried around almost anywhere (depending on the lens that's used).
The layout of the camera is standard: you get control buttons at the back, two control dials near the index finger, and a mode dial and the shutter at the top. Indeed, Fujifilm claims that it's a camera that can be used with one hand — just make sure that your grip doesn't fail you though. The top also has a built-in flash on the left side (there is also a hot-shoe), and lenses are fitted to the X Mount at the front. It feels solid, even though it's made out of plastic, and sits nicely in the hand.
At the back, it features a 3in screen that lives on a hinge, and it can be tilted up or down, making it useful for taking shots that are angled high above your head or low around your hip. The screen itself has a 920k dot resolution and it's quite clear and vibrant, both while shooting and playing back images. This is important because the X-M1 doesn't have a built-in viewfinder, nor is one available as an accessory.
But the biggest deal about this camera is on the inside. It comes with a 16.3-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor, which is the same size as most mainstream, and much bulkier, digital SLR cameras. It's what Fujifilm calls its X-Trans sensor and it has a random pixel arrangement (rather than relying on the Bayer pattern) so that moire patterning and chromatic aberration are minimised. This is needed because the X-M1 does not include an optical low pass filter (OLPF).
This filter, which can be found on almost all cameras on the market, is meant to soften the image a little so that patterning doesn't occur. As a result of this filter, sharpness can take a hit. By removing the OLPF and using a sensor with a more random pixel array, Fujifilm says its camera can produce much sharper image quality.
We attended a brief hands-on session for the X-M1 at Fujifilm's head office in Sydney, and while we couldn't examine any of our test shots on a big screen, zooming in on them on the camera itself showed that they were indeed very sharp. We also viewed sample prints on Fujicolour Crystal Archive paper, and they looked stunningly crisp and devoid of patterning. Fujifilm is making a big point about the X-M1 being able to produce images that are perfectly suited for printing, even when a high ISO sensitivity is used to capture those pictures (it goes up to ISO 6400). We'll know more once we get our hands on the camera for a full review.
It's an easy camera to use, mainly due to the simple control layout we mentioned earlier, and its menu system has a basic structure that's easy to understand. If you're a user who might not want to play around with aperture, shutter and ISO settings (there is also a multiple exposure mode that helps you select the right settings if you do), then you can make use of the scene recognition mode that Fujifilm has included, which has 58 available scenes (54 if a lens without optical image stabilisation is used). This mode can pick the best scene automatically for the job, depending on the lighting conditions and movement in your scene. The on-screen display actually shows a little label on the screen next to any moving objects that are detected in your scene.
In addition to scene modes, you can get creative with eight art filters, and there are also some film simulation filters present — the black and white filter, we're sure, will get plenty of use.
There is another user aid built-in which concerns the flash. Fujifilm calls the flash on the X-M1 a Super Intelligent Flash, and that's because it can meter a scene so that only the right amount of flash is applied to a photo. It does this by firing a 'dummy' flash in order to discharge the capacitor and leave it with the proper amount of power required for the real flash, which comes on soon after. It's said to be of most value when shooting in macro mode, but will also help in backlit scenes where you don't want bright areas to be blown out.
Being a modern camera, it would be remiss of Fujifilm not to include some wireless capabilities in the X-M1, and, in fact, it can be used to transfer photos directly from its internal SD card to a phone or computer (you need to connect to the camera's network and install the appropriate app for your phone or computer). It also does geo-tagging, and it can record video at Full HD (30fps).
Accessories for the Fujifilm X-M1 include a leather case, a handgrip, and a clip-on flash, although the flash that's built-in to the camera is a little flexible and can be bent up a little to provide a bounce, for example. The lens included in the X-M1 kit is the XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, the XC being Fujifilm's economical range of lenses. By the start of 2014, Fujifilm says it will have 14 lenses to choose from. Fujifilm also showed us its 27mm pancake lens (XF 27mm F2.8), which goes very well with the X-M1.
The price of the X-M1 will be $1099 (retail) and it will be available to buy from early August. The colour schemes available at this time will be black and silver, with a brown model being released some time after August.